Dave Clark of the Sounder at Heart blog was kind enough to answer our questions about Seattle. Here are my questions. My answers to his questions are below.
1 - The uninformed fan wants to know: What's going on with the Sounders? They haven't been doing as well as was expected, as at the outset of the season many were pegging them for the MLS Cup. They're not bad at all, but are underperforming by their high standards.
Seattle is one of the teams dealing with significant injury and/or call up for basically every match. Long stints without Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Michael Gspurning and Steve Zakuani have limited Sigi Schmid's squad selection. Many of those have overlapped so that a typical starting XI is not close to a team best XI. Other teams also have injuries and national team duty and then they find ways to win, but that is the biggest cause here. The faults in each loss are different. Sometimes it is finishing, others creation, or defending set-pieces. The problems are as inconsistent as the lineup.
It is also important to note that Seattle's "bad" year is an average season in most MLS seasons. They win more than they lose. The home record is good and they showed they are capable of going on a streak at any time.
2 - Is Mauro Rosales struggling because of his own performance, or is the play of others around him not helping maximize his use? Is he missing Montero? What is the common sense explanation for his reduced effectiveness this season?
Mauro's lost a step so now his dribble moves to gain space have to result in an immediate pass. Almost every defender can now catch him. His crossing is not quite as good as it was in his great assist laden seasons too. He needs to be able to work better with DeAndre Yedlin to open up space for either to cross. When that is not working he can slip into the middle and interchange with Obafemi to create centrally. But his old game of sprinting down the line on a long ball and crossing it in is gone.
3 - Sigi out? Does Seattle need a new coach? Many grumblings have been heard from disillusioned fans about his tactics. Do you think it's all on him, or does some of the responsibility fall on the players?
They've just been unlucky and unfortunate. The tactics aren't broken. That and you don't fire a coach just after acquiring CLINT DEMPSEY. Sorry, distracted a bit today. Sigi's the kind of coach that puts a lineup and system together based on talent. So like when CLINT DEMPSEY joins the Sounders things will change dramatically. He's a fine coach, known and respected by players around the world. He's fine.
1 - Dallas may have taken the mantle from Houston as the best set-piece team in the league both in attack and defense. Is it just about having big bodies or is there more to it?
The big bodies in the box certainly helps, but if you look at the goals scored, Dallas has a lot of smart movement inside the penalty area. If you look at George John's goal against LA, his constant movement threw off Omar Gonzalez.. Blas Perez anticipates the flight of the ball better than almost any defender, making him hard to mark. Couple that with Michel's excellently placed free kicks and it creates a lot of danger for opposing teams.
You could say Dallas relies on set pieces almost exclusively for goals, but that would be discounting that they're smart and talented at them. They're not a "big bully" team inside the box like Kansas City is. They're efficient.
Defense-wise, Dallas has John, who has games where he is practically flawless. His partner, Matt Hedges, has picked up a lot of his smarts and is becoming equally effective. Again, much like in the attack, Blas comes back to help and his ability to read the flight of the ball has him making more clearances than you would expect from a striker.
2 - Erick is a new addition to FCD. A month after signing should this be his first match? What kind of player is he?
Erick was signed with the purpose of pushing Andrew Jacobson and Je-Vaughn Watson for starting time, as his role is supposed to be primarily as a defensive midfielder. His talent is unknowable to us standard folks, but the scouts who signed him thought him worth the money.
The problem with Erick is the problem that seems to befall most of our new signings: he picked up an injury during one of his first training stints, and now looks to stay sidelined a while longer. Not exactly what you're looking for with a new signing. He definitely won't be starting or on the bench against Seattle.
3 - This isn't game related, but are the HGPs down in Dallas getting enough time this year that their talents can be judged?
In the past it felt like several were signed and cast aside.There are a few homegrown products that have been discarded, but I think that's part of the natural cycle of an academy. Most academy-turned-pro players simply won't become regulars for the team. The ones who were cut, like Ruben Luna or Bryan Leyva, simply lacked the commitment to further their game. Whether be it by rejecting a loan, not keeping up with their fitness, or not giving their all in training, they simply lacked that chutzpah that makes players better through hard work.
There are others who are looking really promising. Moises Hernandez has toughed it out in both Guatemala and Costa Rica (with Saprissa) to improve himself. Kellyn Acosta has looked excellent and Jonathan Top is improving as well. This coming year has been big for the academy, and the positive development of the players is an encouraging sign. I don't think this is the year where we can make judgments, but they have been promising. Next year will be a good time to gauge their impact.